The trailer for the live-action remake of Ghost in the Shell is here and things aren’t looking up for those afraid of Asian erasure.

To be fair, the film seems gorgeous, metallic, futuristic, and slick with all the perfect neon inflections to signify perversion and commodification like a good cyberpunk movie should. While the effects are incredible, they didn’t even use them to make white actors look more Asian!


In a story inextricable from Japanese culture, the only Asian faces we really see are those of armed henchmen who get shot. This is the definition of whitewashing: replacing Asian characters with white actors, and further rendering Asian actors disposable by making them embody expendability.


We hear only one person of color speak—a character who appears to be named Lia, portrayed by model Adwoa Aboah. Meanwhile, the main character is played by Scarlett Johansson because she’s “bankable.” Three other prominent characters are also being played by white actors because, as producer Steven Paul told BuzzFeed, the movie is “an international story” that wasn’t “just focused on Japanese.”

Johansson will probably be fine as a bland, cybernetic human (look at her turns as an AI in Her or something otherworldly in Under the Skin). But the mess that is Ghost In the Shell  is something much bigger. We live in a society where white features define normalcy and beauty and success. No wonder white men in power assume race and ethnicity are things that can be copy and pasted onto white bodies.